Christians Are the Salt of the Earth

Thousands of years ago, when God called Abraham, He made him a two-fold promise: “I will bless you,” and “You shall be a blessing” (Genesis 22:17-18). Centuries later, Jesus preached what we usually refer to as “The Sermon on the Mount.” In that sermon, He enumerated some concepts (“The Beatitudes”) which are like the first promise to Abraham—they show what makes for a blessed life (Matthew 5:1-12). The following four verses, however, are like the second promise—they show how such a life blesses others. Let us draw out from Matthew 5:13 how Christians are to be blessings to others as Abraham was.

Prior to doing this, though, it is important to understand that Matthew 5:13 teaches contrary to the view of isolationism as practiced by monks and hermits: Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth.” However, although Christians live in the world and are the salt of the earth, they are not of the world: Jesus said, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:16), or, as Paul wrote, their “citizenship is in Heaven” (Philippians 3:20). They do not love the world (1st John 2:15-17). They do not conform to the world (Romans 12:1-2). They are separate from the world, refusing to touch the unclean thing (2nd Corinthians 6:17). They have crucified the world: Paul said, “By Christ the world has been crucified to me and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). Yet, they must live in the world: Jesus said to His Father about His disciples, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world” (John 17:5). They are not to be recluses, but mixers as Jesus was (Matthew 9:10-13). They are to be salt amid the flesh of the earth. Why are Christians said to be salt?


Being different is one the most significant features of salt. It is different from the meat into which it is rubbed for preservation. It is different from the food into which it puts flavor. It is different from the wound into which it is placed for healing. Christians are simply different. They are unique, separate, and outstanding (Titus 2:13-14). They march to a different drum, love different things, and have a scale of different values: Peter said of Christians, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1st Peter 2:9).


In Matthew 5:13, Jesus implied that the world is rotten. In fact, when people are being implied, the word “world” in the New Testament always refers to non-Christians. In biblical history, the world was generally sinful. The world was destroyed due to its sinfulness (Genesis 6:5). In the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, there was not enough “salt” to save it from utter destruction (Genesis 13:13 and 19:24-25). This generation is hardly any different from those in Genesis. At the turn of the century, there were great expectations for the twentieth century—it was to be "The Golden Age." Based on the evolution theory, civilization was, supposedly, advancing. Science would abolish disease and suffering. Free education would lead all out of ignorance and superstition. It was even thought that drunkenness, crime, immorality, vice, and war would be eliminated. However, this generation alone has only proven what the Bible teaches—the world is rotten, tending to pollution and decay; it is fallen and sinful. So Christians, like the ten that Abraham could not find in Sodom, are here to prevent utter world corruption, and this has always been one of the most basis uses of salt. Meat would rot if not salted; thus the world would rot and be destroyed if not for the presence of Christians. Let us notice three ways by which Christians save and preserve the world.

1. Christians are God's agents in saving the world (2nd Corinthians 4:1-7). Men save men: “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this, you will save yourself and those who hear you” (1st Timothy 4:16). This is true because Christians are filled with the Gospel: “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). Furthermore, “It pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1st Corinthians 1:21). Christians are to scatter their salt (influence) over all the meat (world): Jesus demanded that the disciples “Preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), and Luke added that “They . . . went everywhere preaching the Gospel” (Acts 8:4). So these disciples were, just like Christians today are to be, salt to the entire earth: “Their sound has gone out to all the earth and their words to the ends of the world” (Romans 10:18). (See also Colossians 1:23.)

2. Christians preserve the world through their righteous influence. They preserve by examples as well as by precepts: “In all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works, in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, and incorruptibility” (Titus 2:7).

You tell what you are by the friends you seek,
By the very manner in which you speak,
By the way you employ your leisure time,
By the use you make of dollar and dime.
You tell what you are by the things you wear,
By the spirit in which you burdens bear,
By the kind of things at which you laugh,
By the records you play on the phonograph.
You tell what you are by the way you walk,
By the things in which you delight to talk,
By the manner in which you bear defeat,
By so simple a thing as how you eat.
By the books you choose from the well-filled shelf,
In these ways and more, you tell on yourself.
—Author Unknown

Peter told Christian women married to unbelievers that those mates can be won to the Lord “without a word,” by the use of their influence (1st Peter 3:1). Paul once asked, “How do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband” (1st Corinthians 7:16)?

3. Christians prevent the earth from being destroyed simply by their presence. (If only the world would realize this.) This particular “salt principle” may not be held by every Christian, but it is held by this writer based on the example of Sodom. God would have spared Sodom if only ten “grains of salt” had been found there: “Suppose ten should be found there?” Abraham asked, and God said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten souls” (Genesis 18:32).


Nothing creates thirst quite like salt, and the world needs a thirst for “the water of life” (John 4:5-15). Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). (Righteousness here may be equated with the faith or the Gospel [Romans 1:16-17].)


Christians are living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2). All sacrifices to God are to seasoned with salt: “With all your offerings, you shall offer salt” (Leviticus 2:13). Therefore, Christians must be salt, or have salt in themselves (Mark 9:50). Since man tends to corruption, then, in some way or another, he must be salted to be savory to God, or He will spew him out of His mouth as the lukewarm Christian mentioned in Revelation 3:16. Corrupt affections must be subdued and mortified: “Put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). Even their manner of speech must not be distasteful: “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:6). Christians should hold fast their saltiness, because, if they lose it, it cannot be recovered (Mark 9:50). (See also Hebrews 6:4-6.) Without saltiness, Christians are worthless (2nd Peter 2:20-22).

Many Christians lose their saltiness due to their relationships: “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits’” (1st Corinthians 15:33). The story goes that a starling came to Jerusalem. In order to determine how the bird should be classed, the Jews caught it and took it to a rabbi. He could not decide by looking at the bird, so he told them to place it on a house-top and see which birds would come near it. No bird would come near it until a raven from Egypt came by and was friendly to the strange bird. Since the raven was an unclean bird, they classed the starling as an unclean bird. It was taken true that “birds of a feather flock together.” It is even so in the church: those who love God love His people, and seek the company of the faithful. Christians who have lost their saltiness, yet still claim to be Christians, were spoken of by Paul like this: “They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work” (Titus 1:16).

See 2nd Timothy 3:1-5, "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."

by T. E. Denton

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